Bridges on the right side, bridges on the right side, M almost silently whispered to us as our train rushed along a densely vegetated section of the railway—his eyes glued to his phone’s Google Maps, one hand gripping his camera as he watched the progress of our carriage along West Bandung’s countryside. The trees suddenly cleared and a panorama of freshly planted rice terraces framed by a massive concrete bridge on the background suddenly opened up on our windows; a revered silence, followed by a cacophony of camera clicks.
|EARLY MORNING AT JAKARTA’S GAMBIR RAILWAY STATION|
We were good at not having any hang-overs. Coming home late from the Trip Of Wonders opening night and the Bintang session at Jakarta’s backpacker district after, a quick breakfast at Mercure Sabang was the only thing that separated our sleep from our transfer to Jakarta’s Gambir Railway Station where a 166-kilometer ride to Bandung awaited us.
|THE ISTIQLAL MOSQUE IN JAKARTA|
Well, it wasn’t really waiting for us. We slacked off for a few minutes at the boarding platform, taking a few pictures of the local passengers waiting for the same train and trying very hard to frame the stately Istiqlal Mosque, the largest of its kind in South East Asia, across the Jakarta’s early morning haze.
|HERE COMES OUR RIDE!|
Everyone suddenly hustled into position as our train finally choo chooed its arrival; the Argo Parahyangan, chugging along in all its old-school glory.
The Argo Parahyangan, known to locals as Gopar, travels to Bandung about eight times daily. While there are buses that ply the Jakarta-Bandung route—on a theoretically shorter time-frame sans traffic jams—traveling by train is not only more comfortable, but much more scenic and romantic, as well, especially for tourists like me who are obsessed by train rides.
|THE EXECUTIVE CLASS COACH CAN SEAT 50 PEOPLE COMFORTABLY|
|HEY WHAT?! WAIT!|
We boarded the Executive Class Coach, which was perfect since it can seat 50 passengers on its air-conditioned cabin. The reclinable seats are set by two on each side, and have very comfortable leg rooms. It has a flatscreen TV out front and I was surprised to find a working electrical outlet (yes, G even tried her hair iron on it) on each pair of seats; perfect for charging your phones or powerbanks during the almost four-hour ride. Just don’t forget to bring your international adapters as the sockets are the roundish type.
|OFF TO BANDUNG!|
I have endured, and immensely enjoyed, ten-hour train rides on dilapidated non-air conditioned trains with no doors and wood planks for seats on Myanmar and Sri Lanka (Ella to Colombo train) before, so this is supreme luxury for me. So more than the comforts of the cabin, I was more excited, really, by the passing scenery outside the window.
|FROM BLURRED URBAN SCENES..|
For an hour or so, the scene outside was typical of cities in Asia, heck, it even resembles those in our own country! It wasn’t until the midpart of the trip that the landscape slowly shifted into greens. Where once cluttered houses ruled the windows, there now was open fields filled with lush green rice paddies.
|..TO PASTORAL COUNTRYSIDE PANORAMAS|
|TRAIN DEPOT AT PURWAKARTA STATION|
A brief stop at Purwakarta Station sent my companions scrambling off the left side of the train. Our carriage is built well; else we would’ve sent it spilling to the left, haha. A depot, and on its yards, old train carriages stacked haphazardly like colorful gigantic Lego blocks. It’s a weird sight you don’t see everyday (re; Instragrammable, lol).
|RICE PADDIES INVADING THE HILLS AND MOUNTAINS|
|THE VIEW OVER A VIADUCT CROSSING|
And that’s really the cue to hold your camera. After that, the scenery got more interesting. From flatlands filled by ricefields, the mountains started to encroach on the landscape. The paddies, not to be overwhelmed by such terrains, blanketed its slopes as well.
|RED CLAY ROOFS OVER VERDANT GREENS|
|I LOVE WEST BANDUNG’S VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE|
Besides the Philippine’s own massive rice terraces in Ifugao, I knew that Bali has its own, but I never knew, nor even expected that West Java would have its own mini-rice terraces too! Even with its diminutive size (those we saw), what made it unique from the others I’ve seen are the terra cotta-roofed houses huddled in clusters; its rustic orange hues clashing loudly with the verdant greens of the field.
|FLOATING CONCRETE HIGHWAYS ON INDONESIA’S MOUNTAINSIDES|
|CAN YOU REALLY SLEEP WITH THIS VIEW OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW?|
And then there are the bridges and viaducts. Like Roman aqueducts of ancient times, they soar high, crossing the vast natural landscapes and gorges below, poetic in their own starkly modern forms and ways.
|AND BANDUNG ARRIVED TO SOON|
It was these that kept our eyes glued to our windows; forgetting the long travel hours, fighting off sleep and ignoring the smudges and dirt that had since stuck to the glass outside. The pastorals scenes soon passed and the train slowed to a stop. Bandung has arrived too soon.
~ INDONESIA'S MINISTRY OF TOURISM INVITED ME AS A PART OF THE TRIP OF WONDERS TOUR. VIEWS, OPINIONS & BIASES, ALL MINE.
Argo Parahyangan Train
Route: Jakarta Gambir Station to Bandung
Fare: From IDR 75,000.00 (USD5.00)
Executive Class Fare: IDR 120,000.00 (USD9.00)
Travel Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
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